Category Archives: Black Lives Matter

Boris Johnson and the burka

Boris Johnson’s recent comment about Muslim women wearing the nicab, hijab or burka, and his stance that an apology is not needed have got me thinking…I’m left with some deep concerns:

1. That as a person in a position of authority and in the public eye he hasn’t learned some skills that involve thinking before speaking. Freedom of speech has limitations depending on our role;

2. That his words show a troubling lack of awareness of how he might cause offence or even care that he might have caused offence;

3. That many people in positions of authority, particularly within politics lack understanding of their own place of privilege and therefore do not understand the place of oppression for others. Latest reports are concentrating on his remark being a “joke”. I doubt ‘skills’ as a comedian were on the job spec;

4. That many people in positions of authority, particularly within politics have come through boarding school education. Whilst they may have experienced superior education, the system of ‘privileged abandonment’ of boarding school often causes a shutting down of the child’s emotions which are rarely recovered without the aid of therapy. Subsequently, responding to others’ emotions also proves too difficult. What this generates within the political system, for example, is a severe lack of empathy both for self and others in less fortunate or different circumstances.

Ordinarily I wouldn’t speak out on a political issue; I’m ever mindful of my role as a psychotherapist and the boundaries that maintain safety for both those I work with and myself. This story has got me thinking though, when is enough enough? When do we learn to tolerate difference of race, faith, gender, sexuality, ability etc.? When do people in places of authority learn to respect others as fellow humans rather than to de-humanise? On the other side of the political fence, Jeremy Corbin refuses to accept a definition of anti-Semitism approved of largely by the very people who have felt the blows of injustice. Why not listen and learn instead of imposing from that place ‘authority’? We don’t all have to share the same views; surely there are ways in which we can communicate our differences of opinion without ridiculing each other or inciting hatred?

Given that tolerance, compassion, and compromise are not often filtering down through the political parties and beyond, I’m wondering what we can do in the therapeutic community to foster these characteristics in a way that impacts wider society so that freedom of speech can be honoured in a more humane way?

The more we can understand our own places of privilege and oppression, what this is rooted in and how this develops, the more we can educate ourselves to be open-minded, tolerant, and empathic to those who are different or hold different views to ourselves. In the end we are all people, we all hurt, we all cry, we all laugh. As a people we would work so much better united than constantly pointing out that some else does it differently to us and is therefore wrong.

Black Lives Matter: It begins at home

Brunhild Abrahams 6 July 2020

My experience of watching the video of the white Police Officer killing a black man named, George Floyd by kneeling on his neck because of his skin colour was like watching a horror movie based on a real life story, streaming live! I was shocked, emotional and felt sick to the core but knew the importance of watching the video clip to the end and acknowledging my feelings.

I’ve realised that as a South African mixed-race child now an adult, I have become so accustomed to racism in SA, which is scary.  It also makes me feel really angry not just because it exists but because I am still allowing it to affect me. The first memory that popped up was that we could not share a public swimming pool with white people.  On the other hand, whenever the bin Lorries would come around, adults would scare us as children and say the ‘booty’ (a black man) would catch us if we didn’t listen. I must admit since experiencing life in the UK, I felt a sense of equality and diversity and became more confident of my voice as a person of mixed-race.

Then I questioned what impact could that have had on the mixed and black races of SA?! Well, this is my thesis to the sad and realistic sub-conscious outcome; even though our mothers and fathers (my biological father was one of them) protested against racism, they were still unable to bring changes because of the law.  As children, we might have learned to accept the discrimination and unfair behaviour from white people because our parents had to, which could have made us feel hopeless and helpless. Growing up, we might have internalised that behaviour which might have ‘crippled’ the majority of us sub-consciously, believing that we are incapable of standing up for ourselves or being leaders of any kind etc. Even though I can acknowledge the pain and suffering racism have caused me and my race, there was still a possibility for us to thrive and succeed through education and hard work, where for the black race, it was made nearly impossible.


It is 2020 and we are still, like we’ve heard so many times on the news and social media, after 400 years+ dealing with systemic racism that is rooted into the psyche of the people?! With the exception of some white people, who gave white people the right to make THE decision to segregate us all as a human race, to treat people unfairly ONLY because of the colour of their skin, to create economic exploitation with slavery??!! It really hit hard when a 36 year old black man was sobbing and pleading to a 16 year old at a protest for their generation to come up with a better way of fighting for justice because his generation and the ones before were unable to because, he said, white people will always try to come up with a better way.  It should be simple right? If white people could learn how to create racism, they can unlearn it because they weren’t born with it = NO EXCUSE FOR CHANGE so let’s have a serious chat and demand that change now, not later! Not just racism but also the impact poverty, Covid-19, lost of employment and healthcare has on Black, Asian & Minority Ethnic (BAME) groups including Native Americans and the LGBTQ+ community.

Sadly it was at the cost of George Floyd’s privacy when he passed away for the world, the BAME & LGBTQ+ community to metaphorically see how systemic racism has its ‘knee on all of our necks’.  I’ve read in an article a black man consciously made a decision to never leave his house without his daughters or his dog because that would present to the Police that he is a family man and a good citizen. Is that not an ‘emotional jail’ they are trapped in every single day of their lives and WHY??!! Wouldn’t that be exhausting, painful, cause enrage in anyone if they had to live in fear only because of the colour of their skin?

ENOUGH IS ENOUGH!! IT’S TIME FOR A SUSTAINABLE CHANGE!! That is why the world came together to protest and fight for justice and is unapologetically demanding for transformative policy change. Starting with basic human needs (Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs), respect, inclusion, compassion = Equality, Diversity, Justice = Unprecedented reckoning of the ongoing legacy of slavery economic reform for equality. THE POWER LIES WITH THE PEOPLE.

 I would recommend everyone to watch an Anti-Racism Exercise called the “Blue eyes/Brown eyes” experiment illustrated by Jane Elliott, a teacher of 25 years teaching race relations I get emotional and have a sense of relief every time I watch it because it’s the way Jane highlights, as a white woman with blue eyes, how racism is engrained into society.

“I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.” ― Nelson Mandela

This is an opportunity for every person around the globe to take responsibility and check where we need to educate ourselves on racism and take action with the focus of sustainability and breaking segregation. WHERE BETTER THAN TO START AT HOME? I have learnt so much (a new ‘language’) over the last couple of weeks and realised, even I have some white privilege. Before my son walks out of the front door, I will ask him not to forget to greet, say please, thank you but a black parent has to ask their son to not wear a hoody, to remember the goal is to get home safely and not put their hands in their pockets, etc.  I know I can rely on the Police if I had to call them so I can’t imagine what a black person must feel like if they don’t get a similar fair service.

I am definitely educating my children on racism, equality and diversity because my son has already experienced racism and it can happen to anyone at any time. I will take a page from my parent’s book by the way they’ve brought me up by taking us into a township mainly consisting of black residence.  There, we’ve met a warm, loving, strong and well respected black woman who introduced us to their culture and everyday living. Thanks to them, I am able to look at humanity with an eye of equality, respect and understanding not just by words but first by feeling, emotion and deed.

They say it takes a village to raise a child, so why don’t we put that into action as a human race, look out for one another and form a multi-cultural community.  Uncover the hidden prejudice that shapes what we see, think and do to make sure we, our children and future generations will be treated with justice and dignity because all that we are really seeking for at the end is equality and not revenge.  So, why not invite your friends of different race and cultures to your home or community centre not just for a lunch or a BBQ but with the meaning of educating each other and showing real interest on how rich and valuable our differences are to one another. 

“The time is always right to do what is right” – Martin Luther King Jr.

Book suggestions:

  • Biased – Jennifer Eberhardt, PhD
  • How To Be An Antiracist – Ibram X. Kendi
  • Our Time Is Now – Stacey Abrams